Harvest Noir 2014: Make Magic

The countdown is on to wear your best dark frock for Harvest Noir and take part in the annual pop-up Ottawa event. Here is just a little video of what you can expect:

Harvest Noir 2014: Make Magic

I will be judging the fashion show and there will be lots of prizes to be won, so be sure to dress to impress.

WIN: Tweet me at @ottawastyle with the hashtag #harvestnoir to enter the draw to win tickets to the most intriguing event of the year. Be creative and tell me why you want to attend.

I caught up with Samantha Biron, one of the organizers to find out what you can expect for this year’s picnic feast to celebrate the autumn harvest.

Alexandra Gunn: Tell me more about this secret picnic. What can guests expect?

Samantha Biron: Guests can expect the unexpected.  First, they get all fancied up in black, plan and pack delicious local food to share with friends, wait for the location to be revealed and descend into a haze of expressive black costumes, revelry and smiling faces. There are prizes for best-decorated tables, so expect to see eclectic creations adorning tables. It is an absolute spectacle to be part of an elegantly-dressed crowd of 1,000 or so diners taking over one of Ottawa’s great urban spaces.

The picnic is accompanied by refined music. This year’s headliner just took home Instrumental Album of the Year at the Juno Awards: Esmerine, the post-rock chamber musical group from Montreal and Wakefield. They will be joined by Ottawa’s acclaimed cello classical/metal fusion duo The Visit, with singer-songwriter Evan Van Roon as special guest.

The picnic concludes with a triumphant celebration of light. Hoisting 1,000 plus fiery sparklers to the sky, the guests create an extraordinary visual spectacle set to inspirational music that can only truly be experienced in person, leaving surprised tourists and jealous passersby, looking on in wonder. And that’s just the picnic.

HN3Alex: Why did you decide to put on the end-of-summer gala? 

Samantha: Adult life is just so predictable. We wanted to create an event that made you feel like you’d fallen down a rabbit hole into something as surprising and mad-hatter-ish as Alice in Wonderland.
When we saw our first European-inspired chic picnic in Montreal in August 2011, we were certain that the concept was too cool to fail, even here! European chic picnics are extremely stylish, but they don’t have a social mission. We found a reason to throw the party of the year in Ottawa’s burgeoning local food scene and a celebration of local farms and produce. Why not fuse a chic picnic with a traditional harvest ball? This really isn’t a new idea – a few generations back, people celebrated the harvest all across Europe in hundreds of culturally interesting ways all throughout the autumn.

Harvest Noir asks its guests to step away, for just one day, from the usual ultra-convenient, cheap, industrially-farmed foreign produce found in every grocery store, and to eat something fresh and healthy from a farm you could actually visit without a jet. They’re asked to prepare it themselves, and eat it with the biggest group of their friends they can assemble. And then shake their booty all night on the dance floor.

Alex: Let’s talk local. All of the guests will be bringing local food and wine. What are some ideal menu items guests should prepare?

HN1 (1)Samantha: Preparing your picnic feast with ingredients you can find on nearby farms means it will be fresher, more nutritious, and much better for the local economy and the planet.

We recommend our guests start out by visiting farmer’s markets. Looking for the Savour Ottawa brand lets you instantly recognize local agricultural products. When you see the Savour Ottawa logo at farmers’ markets, butcheries, retail grocery stores and more, you can feel assured that each product or establishment with the logo has undergone a verification process to ensure that they are using local food in their products, or are a local producer.

The Just Food Buy Local Food Guide lists farms in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec, as well as retailers that support local farmers. It is searchable, so you can play around to find the farms and retailers nearest you where you can get local ingredients for your Harvest Noir picnic feast!

Some of our personal favorites are Notre Petite Ferme, Hall’s Orchard, Major Craig’s Chutneys, and the Piggy Market.

Ideal dishes to prepare include seasonal soups (try pumpkin or squash), cheese plates, salads, and even mini fondues. We encourage our guests to go in for lower-footprint meats like fish or chicken instead of beef or lamb.

Alex: Fashion is a key feature at the event. What should guests wear to the picnic? 

HN2Samantha: Guests at Harvest Noir go all out to dress their best in black, and the range of costumes is extraordinary. Many guests go in for the retro inspired or vintage reproduction look. Top hats and bowlers abound, as do fancy black dresses with fascinators. Others strut an elegant, black-tie gala look (but remember, men – no white shirts). We’ve seen costumes that run from slinky and sexy black dresses and sheer blouses to volumous Gothic Victorian formal full-length dresses. Flapper girls have made an appearance. Accessories have included hand-made fascinators and lace masks, corsets, angel wings, antlers, handlebar moustaches, monocles, pocketwatches, canes, gauntlets, and black kilts. Many guests honour the sustainability ethos of Harvest Noir by upcycling elements of their costumes, or buying vintage or pre-owned at funky consignment boutiques. We also encourage animal-friendly fashion. For instance, Samantha is wearing antlers on her head-piece this year that were sourced from a farmer who finds them from deer who shed them naturally on his land.

What all these costumes have in common is expressiveness – all in black. On the big night, there will be a much-anticipated fashion show, with fabulous prizes for most inventive costumes! Of course, if all this sounds a little overwhelming for you, just be sure to wear your best in black outfit. Simple also works!

Alex: Tell me about the fashion show. What sort of prizes can the winners expect?

Samantha: Hosted by Rogers Daytime Host Derick Fage, the HN2014 fashion show invites guests to strut their stuff on the catwalk in a fantastical audience-participation fashion show. This year we have terrific prizes for Most Creative Outfit, Most Innovative Headpiece, Best Overall Costume and Best Overall Modeling Presence.

We have some really awesome judges this year: Angie Sakla-Seymour (Owner of Angie’s Models and Talent), Alexandra Gunn (Fashion Editor at Ottawa Life Magazine and TV Host at Sun News Network), Janet Wilson (Fashion Editor at the Ottawa Citizen), and Frank Sukhoo (Designer, Sukhoo Sukhoo Couture).

Prizes include Daya Spa–four organic facials (valued at $440); H&M Fashion gift card (valued at $250); The Saucy Milliner gift card (value of $250);  Pierino Scarfo Salon Gift Certificate; and Adorit Boutique Gift Certificate.

Alex: This event is certainly best enjoyed with a group of friends. How many people create a group and what’s the role of the Table Captain?

HN5Samantha: You’ll want to bring your friends–all of them. Harvest Noir is specially designed for guests to host an extravagant, daring mini-party of their friends (or family) within the larger party.
The easiest way to convene a group of friends to attend Harvest Noir is to become a Table Captain, or invite a friend to become one–perhaps that “social butterfly” you know? The Table Captain is the most important role for this style of participatory event, and is offered a special discount on ticket prices. Once you or your most social friend have purchased a Table Captain ticket, you will be sent a unique discount code to send to your friends.

Table Captains are recommended to invite a minimum of seven guests, so that we do not have to seat other guests at your table, but there is no maximum–invite as many guests as you like! Harvest Noir is all about having a fantastic evening with friends, so to encourage large groups of friends to gather and celebrate together, we will once again be awarding several awesome prizes to the lucky Table Captains with the largest number of guests at their table.

Note also that if your friends cannot join you for the picnic, we do sell tickets just to the after-party–so they could join you for the dancing portion of the evening.

Alex: What can they expect at the dance party?

Samantha: The first Dance Noir after-party took place at the elegant Museum of Civilization, in 2012 at the National Arts Centre, and in 2013 at the War Museum, and this year’s event promises to be held in an equally refined venue. After-party guests will be informed of the 2014 secret location at the last minute by email.

Guests can expect to stay up late and have an astonishing time. In addition to the magical costumes and the fashion show described above, Dance Noir was voted one of Ottawa’s sexiest parties by Apt613 readers.

This year we are guaranteeing two dance halls. A prohibition-era dancefloor with The Stan Clark Orchestra will appeal to young and old alike by offering  swing dancing, rag-time, and other dance favorites with classics like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and, of course, Cab Calloway. Our main dancefloor will feature Top40, classic rock, and popular music by the talented DJ Eric Latulippe. And there will be other surprises!

Alex: What is the overall goal behind the event?

Samantha: Harvest Noir has a social mission to promote local food and sustainability in a vibrant community format, and is a fund-raiser for BioRegional North America, a non-profit environmental organization based out of the Hub in Ottawa.

Proceeds from Harvest Noir go towards helping BioRegional North America carry on its nonprofit mission to create model places where genuinely sustainable, healthy lifestyles that promote a 70 per cent reduction in carbon footprint are convenient for the ordinary people who live or work there. BioRegional is a co-founder of the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict in the downtown core.

BioRegional is also helping green developer Windmill create the first One Planet Community in Canada at the Isles, on the former Domtar lands on Chaudiere and Albert Islands. BioRegional’s ambitious One Planet Living sustainability framework will guide the development of the Isles and help make it the greenest neighborhood in Canada.

Alex: How can people register?

Samantha: Tickets are available at harvestnoir.com/tickets

Don’t forget to enter to win tickets to the event by simply tweeting me at @ottawastyle with the hashtag #harvestnoir. Be creative and tell me why you want to attend.